The idea for this thread came up when I was at a Giant Eagle supermarket in suburban Cleveland a few weeks ago, and saw this sign.
Just what is it about those cheap umbrellas that makes them "deluxe super?" Probably nothing; the words are just adjectives tacked onto the sign in a pathetic attempt to impress shopppers. Go into any store, and you'll see superlatives tacked onto many items: "super", "deluxe", and in more recent years, "x-treme".
The overuse of superlatives in marketing has caused them to lose their meaning, but in the past, those words meant something. For example, there would be the 1952 Buick Bloatliner, but also the Bloatliner Deluxe, with cloth upholstery, an AM radio, and six quart-sized chrome ashtrays instead of four. Through the 1950s and into the 1960s, more products and services were given the "deluxe" label, and the word gradually lost its meaning. When everything is deluxe, nothing is.
In the distant past, it seemed like superlatives weren't a common part of advertising. The testimonials that accompanied plans for kit-built houses, for example, were often underwhelming, at least by today's standards.
"Very satisfactory". Glowing praise in 1925, but an expression of mediocrity in 2010.
What superlatives have lost their meaning? What superlatives will become meaningless thanks to overuse in the coming decades?